Most Wanted: These Are The Best-Selling Indian Independent Music Acts Since 2012

Raghu Dixit

Bangalore’s The Raghu Dixit Project is among the best-selling acts of the last four years on digital music store OK Listen!

On August 15, the folks behind OK Listen! will have a double celebration. The Mumbai-based digital music store, which specialises in Indian independent acts, will turn four on Independence Day. To mark the occasion, we got the site, which has released over 1,000 albums, EPs and singles across multiple genres since it opened its payment gateway in 2012, to share the list of their best-selling acts thus far.

People in Bangalore are most likely to pay for music, said co-founder Vijay Basrur, followed by those in Mumbai and Delhi, which is reflected in the list, below. Six of the acts – Thermal and a Quarter, Lagori, The Down Troddence, Agam, Parvaaz and The Raghu Dixit Project – are from the garden city. The list is, of course, not a comprehensive representation of the country’s indie music scene. It only quantifies four years of data, which itself is limited to bands and solo artists who chose to sell their music on OK Listen!. A number of the country’s biggest acts either released the bulk of their repertoire before 2012 (Pentagram) or are signed to a major international label that don’t put their music on the platform (Midival Punditz) or simply give their music away for free (Nucleya).

This explains the underrepresentation of electronic music, widely regarded as the fastest growing independent genre in India, in OK Listen!’s stockpile, which seems to be dominated, at least sales-wise, by folk-fusion. Among the challenges of running OK Listen!, said Basrur, is convincing large record companies to come on board without asking for a minimum guarantee (a fixed amount that has to be paid irrespective of how many sales are generated), which a boutique set-up such as his can’t afford. At the same time, these companies retail their content on iTunes for a smaller share of the revenue because “the numbers, especially after [the launch of streaming service] Apple Music [in 2015] are pretty big”, said Basrur.

Though there has been a worldwide shift in music consumption from sales to streaming, Basrur said that while he’s considered adding streaming to OK Listen!’s modes of distribution, there are no immediate plans to do so as similar services like Saavn and Gaana have to pay huge sums to licence content from record labels. On the plus side, artists are increasingly opting to distribute their releases on OK Listen!, which is well-reputed for its straightforward and simple means of operation: an act gets to keep a flat 80 or 85 per cent of the proceeds from a sale.

While the majority of the acts on the site are upcoming or those releasing their debut albums, EPs or singles, Basrur said that many established musicians are realising the benefits of “having complete control of the distribution process”. He cited the example of veteran jazz guitarist and composer Sanjay Divecha who released his second album Secret on OK Listen! last week after “he tried various routes for his first album (2008’s Full Circle) but found it comforting that we were the ones who were the most transparent”.

The growth, notably, has been gradual with word-of-mouth helping build both customer and artist registrations. “If we had deeper pockets (for marketing and advertising) we could have acquired more consumers and reached far more musicians,” said Basrur. “One thing that works for us is that new artists get new fans and new fans also discover old artists.” Here are the acts who’ve sold the most albums, EPs and singles on OK Listen! over the last four years:

10. Thermal And A Quarter
The Scene (2015), No Wall Too High (2015)

9. Lagori
Lagori (2013),’We Are All We Need’ (2015)

8. Blackstratblues
‘Bombay Rain’ (2007), The Universe Has A Strange Sense of Humour (2015)

7. The Down Troddence
How Are You? We Are Fine Thank You (2013)

6. Agam
The Inner Self Awakens (2012), ‘Over The Horizon’ (2014)

5. Parvaaz
Behosh (2012), ‘Khufiya Dastaan’ (2013), Baran (2014)

4. Bipul Chettri
Sketches of Darjeeling (2014), ‘Syndicate’ (2015)

3. Scribe
Mark Of Teja (2010), Hail Mogambo (2014)

2. Indian Ocean
Desert Rain (1997), Kandisa (2000), Jhini (2003), Black Friday (2004), 16/330 Khajoor Road (2010), Best of Indian Ocean (2013), Tandanu (2014)

1. The Raghu Dixit Project
The Raghu Dixit Project/Antaragni – The Fire Within (2007), Uplugged – Live In York (2012), Jag Changa (2013)

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